Most of the sleeping town of San Pedro did not know what happened until morning light, as Wings Department Store across the airstrip burnt throughout the night, Tuesday, February 5, 2008.
The fire department responded to the call around midnight, as the second floor above Wings Department Store caught on fire, apparently due to an electrical fault. Many short comings of the fire department and other setbacks had the volunteer firemen scrambling to set up the fire hoses. After the firemen could get access to the top of the building, the fire inside had intensified tremendously, sending a plume of smoke across the neighborhoods of the Airstrip Area and San Pedrito Area.
The power never went out as the fire was contained inside the closed building like a brick oven, but the threat of the fire bursting out had neighbors adjacent to the building scrambling for their personal belongings. Even the Scotia Bank was amongst the buildings threatened.
According to unofficial reports, the fire started in the warehouse which is adjacent to the living area of the department store owners. According to sources, while they were at the living room talking, the air conditioning unit stopped operating and the electrical panel box started to spark, lights started to flicker and the smell of smoked filled the building.
It was a bit difficult for the fire department to gain access to the inside of the building since there is no proper fire exit in the entire building. Once they managed to enter the building very little could be done since the place was already engulfed by thick black smoke.
Black smoke was coming out the back windows as firemen tried to out the fire from the front side of the building. As usual the famous bucket brigade, consisting of both men and women was essential in assisting to keep the neighboring house and apartments from catching fire. Volunteers, along with the fire fighters, worked tirelessly in gaining access to the windows of the storage room as they climbed up ladders and broke the burglar bars in order to hose down the fire which was extremely intense.
Fire fighters from Belize City were flown in around 3:00a.m. on Wednesday, February 6, by the BDF air craft to assist the San Pedro Fire Department as the firemen from the island could no longer access the inside of the building because their oxygen supply had run out. Lack of proper equipment was also a hindering factor for fighting the fire. Around 4:00a.m. the fire was kept under control but was still burning. As of press time, Wednesday, February 6, at midday fire fighters were still battling the fire which flared up after part of the wall was demolished. An updated official report will be published on next week’s edition of the Ambergris Today Newspaper.